The commitment to mediocrity continues to thrive at the Texas State Board of Education. Last week the board’s creationist bloc once again stopped board reformers — both Republicans and Democrats — from changing the outrageously politicized process for revising curriculum standards for Texas public schools.

Observers who watched the state board revise curriculum standards for language arts/reading, science and social studies in the last five years know how badly that process needs reform. Board members during those revisions made hundreds of politically motivated changes to drafts of curriculum standards that had been carefully crafted (in one case over the course of nearly three years) by teachers and scholars. And when board members appointed so-called “experts” to advise them, they often chose political activists who shared their personal and political agendas but lacked the academic credentials that would have reasonably qualified them as “experts.”

Board reformers first proposed changes to improve the curriculum standards revision process in January 2011, but the board’s creationists succeeded in blocking most of them. Last week reformers tried again. But partly because one board moderate, Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, was absent, board creationists… Read More

As we reported Monday, a new report prepared for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board slams the State Board of Education (SBOE) for their politicized, factually challenged re-write of social studies curriculum standards last year. The report is worth a read to see just how extensive the damage was to those standards -- and to Texas students' college readiness. But if you don't have a time to read the whole thing, here are a few of the highlights low-lights: Read More

Gov. Perry, we’d like to bring an exciting money-making opportunity to your attention.

Have you ever met Ken Mercer? You might have. Mercer is the District 5 representative on the State Board of Education and, proudly, a member of that body’s far-right bloc.

Last month when the SBOE debated adoption of instructional materials in science, Mercer made a very generous offer:

You show me one (science curriculum standard) where there’s God or Jesus, intelligent design, creationism. Show me that, and I’ll give you $500.

The National Center for Science Education has video of Mercer’s offer:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0i3tAjp6jeQ&w=400&h=255]

Now fast forward a few weeks, where you stated unequivocally:

In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools β€” because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.

Video here:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj7spLBfMHY&w=400&h=255]

You and Mr. Mercer should talk about that $500 check. He doesn’t strike us as a welcher, so we’re sure he’ll hand that $500 right over.

A word of caution, though. A bunch of us fact-checked your creationism comment, and despite your assertion, we couldn’t find anything in the standards calling for creationism… Read More

When fanatics don't have facts to back up their arguments, they invent them. We saw that during the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee's hearing Wednesday on SB 1348. That bill and companion HB 3263 call for the appointment of teams of highly qualified scholars from Texas colleges and universities to review proposed public school curriculum standards for accuracy and to ensure that they prepare students for college. This common-sense legislation appealed to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee. "It's hard for me to vote against a bill that makes sense," Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock said at one point. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller testified in support of the bill, explaining how the State Board of Education has politicized curriculum standards and appointed unqualified "expert" advisers simply because of their ideological views. The board has even refused to ask scholars at the state's world-class universities to review the heavily revised standards before final adoption. Even a conservative think tank like the Fordham Institute has expressed its disgust with the state board's blatantly politicized and inaccurate curriculum standards. The facts-inventing began when Jonathan Saenz, the lobbyist for Liberty Institute (Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family) testified in opposition to the bill. We'll point out just three of the whoppers he told committee members. (You can watch the video -- Saenz's testimony begins at about the 1:20:00 mark here.) Read More

It's astonishing how much mischief can be done in just 48 hours. Today Texas legislators have a chance to help put a stop to some of it, at least when it comes to the State Board of Education. More about that below. Teachers and scholars spent nearly a year -- more than two years in one case -- working together to draft curriculum standards for three major subject areas taught in Texas public schools. Then in the course of a few short meetings, politicians on the State Board of Education vandalized those carefully drafted standards for language arts (2008), science (2009) and social studies (2010). State board members made wholesale revisions to those drafts -- about three hundred changes in the case of the social studies standards alone. Many of those changes came in just the last 48 hours before final board votes on adopting standards that will be in place for nearly a decade. Even worse, board members made those (essentially) last-minute changes without the formal review or advice of teachers and scholars. Read More

Forrest Wilder

. @SenJaneNelson: Post-Planned Parenthood, the state women's health program "has more providers than we ever had." Our reporting: Nearly half of the approximately 5,400 providers didn’t see a single patient in the program in 2017. texasobserver.org/te…